Breastfeeding: To cover up or not to cover up?

This is a topic I’ve always stayed away from. Because I felt disparate from the social media mainstream when it came to my opinions on feeding in public.

But, nudged to profound irritation by the Claridges drama, I’m now so *over* reading blog posts, Facebook whinges and Twitter rants on the subject that I’m going to end my silence.

If you’re extremely sensitive about this issue and don’t think you can consider an alternative viewpoint, please — find something else to read.

Before you ask: Yes, I’m pro-breastfeeding.
I breastfed. It was, without question, the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I never had sufficient milk volume and even in a 1.5-hourly routine of feed-express, with which I persisted for 12 heart-breaking weeks, I never managed to produce more than 20ml per boob per feed.

Why did I choose to cover my boobs in public?
When I breastfed outside of my home, I chose to cover up. With a muslin cloth or some other lappie I carried for that purpose. Not because breastfeeding isn’t a beautiful, natural thing. Not because it’s anything to be ashamed of. But because I didn’t want strangers seeing my boobs.

I did this because my boobs are mine. (Okay, and my husband’s and once my baby’s.) Just like my vajayjay. And I don’t put that on display, even though a baby (was supposed to but never actually) emerged from it.

But I find it awkward when boobs are on show.
As a mom and a former breastfeeder, I still feel awkward as hell when moms who are not family members or close friends breastfeed their babies in front of a group of assorted adults, without covering up in some way. This is because I don’t know where to look. And I’m a girl. With boobs. I pity the men and the teenage boys.

Yup, this is my own issue, probably rooted in age-old prudishness. But there it is.

What’s more, it annoys the pants (bra?) off me when moms hoist up their tops, haul out a boob and proceed to feed a hungry baby — top still up, boob still out, other boob-plus-nipple exposed just for the hell of it, and smug smile in place — in the middle of public places that are not strictly family-friendly. Even these chicks, during their “feed-in”, are more or less covered up.

The social media maelstrom is bloody annoying.
Claridges, you have my sympathy. You’re a luxury hotel, for shit’s sake, and if a mom wants to breastfeed in the midst of your fancy dining room, you’re within your rights to expect her to do so discreetly. Louise Burns, when offered a large napkin as a cover-up, burst into tears. What the hell for? Just say “no thanks” to the napkin and get on with it.

You can probably tell that I’m annoyed. But not so much that I don’t welcome your input. So have at it. Feel free. Let’s have a discussion. Sound off in the comments.

Image – Flickr

4 Replies to “Breastfeeding: To cover up or not to cover up?”

  1. Perfect article to which I agree. Doing it in family is nothing bad, its good, but doing it away from that without covering objectifies the women.

  2. The right to breast feed should be enshrined in the constitution. Those who did not breastfeed as babies should just suck it in and get over themselves. Isn’t it time that we stop demanding so much from women after all they have given so much.

    We should let women be. After all mothers know best.

  3. I respectfully but totally disagree with this article. But it’s a cultural thing. South African cultures and society as a whole are generally very prude and have issues with bodies (this also relates to gender-based violence and violent masculinities). In none of the
    pictures of breastfeeding moms posted in the links on on the Claridge incident can you actually see a breast. You see as much skin as a woman wearing a tank top in summer. The example used by the author of the article states that women breasfeed “top still up, boob still out, other boob-plus-nipple exposed just for the hell of it, and smug smile in place”, as if it’s a general state of affairs. We all know it’s not.
    Most breasfeeding moms are very discreet and no, do not want to expose intimate parts of their body out of some sort of misplaced feminist pride. But many moms also do not want to be forced to be sent back to a hidden and “private” space (a space where no men are asked to go) – physically or mataphorically, with a cloth – when they have to feed their child.
    The bottom line is – the mother who is breastfeeding should be free to make the choice whether to cover up or not, and both are fine. I hated covering up when I was breastfeeding, I felt as if I had to be ashamed of what I was doing. I have friends who cover up, I have friends who don’t cover up, and I totally respect both.
    And if a woman gets ready to breasfeed her baby and must expose a nipple for about 5 seconds max until the baby has swallowed the nipple, I assume every civilised and respectful human being can just turn their head away.
    If your child must urgently pee while at the park, and there are no bathrooms available, and you find a space behind a tree to let you child pee, wouldn’t you want the other people in the park to gently and kindly look the other way instead of checking out your child’s buttocks? Well, breastfeeding is the same. It must happen, several times
    a day, including in public spaces, and it’s up to those around the breastfeeding mom to respect that moment and look the other way. I really don’t see why this is such a problem.

    1. You have choice whether you want to cover up or not. I respect the view of author of the article however do think you should get over yourself because whether you Bill Gates, Lil Wayne, breastfeeding mom cover up or not eventually nobody gives a shit. Let the breast feeder decide what they want to do

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *